This is my new favorite snack. This week alone, I’ve had them as breakfast, appetizers and part of a main. I’ve always been in awe of the way in which a cook treats vegetables, elevating nature’s bounty to a higher estate by the addition of just a few brilliant strokes. This is one of those recipes. In ten minutes, you sautee the peppers in a splash of sesame oil until they start to blister, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of coarse salt and a dusting of sesame seeds and you’ve achieved that sought-after umami flavor that satisfies in a way that paradoxically leaves you wanting more. All in the best way possible. Hold by the stem and eat whole. No peeling, no removal of seeds.
In my travels lately I’ve bumped into these beautiful sweet, and rarely hot peppers under different names. In the States (and Japan) they go by shishito, referring to their shape, which is like that of a lion’s head. In Mexico they masquerade as padrones, meaning “godfather” because only one out of many will be hot. This hot one, I suspect, is the godfather.
Last week was Mexican Independence Day (not Cinco de Mayo as people here tend to believe). I ate the traditional green, white and red dish (the colors of the Mexican flag) called chiles en nogada, which is a green poblano pepper stuffed with meat and fruit, covered in a mole of sweet, white walnuts, topped with pomegranate seeds. I think it takes fifteen Mexican grandmothers to make it so I did not attempt to recreate it. Instead I went with this simple recipe drawing from the Asian provenance of this pepper.
I’ve been running around lately between work, play and fall holidays I’m trying to catch my breath. Last week I made a really delicious, doughy challah laced with ground pomegranates, but I had to leave so quickly I didn’t have time to photograph the finished product for you all. I’ll do it again soon, hopefully with a home full of guests. And is it strange, I’ve been contemplating leaving the city? I love Manhattan, but I forgot how much measuring my days by sunsets and the rotation of the night’s stars are such a fundamental part of the rhythm of my existence. I grew up breathing to the cadence of crickets and peepers. Now it’s power drills, sirens and the kinetic energy of a collective 8 million people. And every once in a while I hear nothing. That crazy phenomenon of moments in between where the whole world seems to stop, like when an entire restaurant goes quiet at once for a split second. I’m thinking I can find a happy medium in the coming year, but for now it’s nice to just take stock. Happy autumn everyone! Feliz dia de Independencia and a peaceful new year and season to those celebrating religious holidays or to those who are just keeping an eye on the sun. Enjoy!
BLISTERED PADRON (SHISHITO) PEPPERS W/ LEMON, SALT & SESAME OIL
- 4 to 6 oz shishito/padron peppers (about 20 peppers)
- 2-3 tbsp sesame oil
- juice of half a lemon
- pinch of coarse salt
- pinch of sesame seeds (optional)
Add sesame oil to a small pan. Add peppers to pan over medium to low heat. Squeeze lemon and a pinch of salt over the peppers. Allow to cook until they start to blister, about 10 minutes. Be patient. A nice slow blister will infuse them with flavor. After no more than 10 to 15 minutes total the peppers should be sufficiently cooked, soft and blistered. Remove from heat. Toss some sesame seeds over them if desired. Hold by the stem and eat whole. I don’t eat the stems. Buen provecho!